Ecoworld NZ Ltd have been fined $60,00 in the Hamilton District Court today for misleading people about the benefits of a water â€œtreatmentâ€ system that did nothing to change the water it treated.
The court also ordered compensation of $68,000 to be paid to consumers who purchased the product during the period under investigation (March 2000 â€“ March 2003), and required more than $8,000 in costs to be paid to the Commerce Commission.
Ecoworld sold the Grander Living Water Units for between $1,500 and $12,000.
The units contain no mechanism or filter to treat water. Rather, in a sealed section they contain â€œliving water,â€ which the vendors say comes from glacial melts in Austriaâ€™s Tyrolean mountains.
Ecoworld claimed that any water brought into contact or close proximity with this â€œliving waterâ€ would gain special properties, ranging from an improved PH level to becoming hostile to pathogens.
Tests showed that there were no measurable differences between â€œtreatedâ€ water that had passed through the system, and untreated water.
Judge Merilena Burnett said promotional material for the Living Water units â€œcontained inconsistencies, quackery and pseudo-science.â€
Commerce Commission Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said the conviction warns companies they canâ€™t make false claims about the products they sell. Claims they do make must be supported by credible evidence.
â€œIt can be easy to fool people using glossy brochures full of personal testimonials, graphs and highly selective quotes from test results.â€ said Ms Battell.
â€œIf companies canâ€™t back up their claims with solid proof, they shouldnâ€™t be trading on them.â€
There was also a warning here for consumers, said Ms Battell.
â€œSome of the claims made about â€œLiving Waterâ€ were outlandish,â€ she said. â€œConsumers need to be sceptical, ask questions, and consult their common sense when confronted with unusual-sounding claims.â€
For more on water quackery in general, see Water Cluster Pseudoscience, by Stephen Lower.